What We Know About WA State Rep’s Ties To A Christian Military Training Group

Washington State Representative Matthew Shea
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Washington state lawmaker Matt Shea has in recent months faced calls for his resignation and been referred to the FBI for his how-to guide on the “Biblical Basis for War,” outlining a potential conflict in which Christians battle non-believers in the United States.

Now, new reporting from The Guardian and The Spokane Spokesman-Review has shed more light on Shea’s connections to a real-life “Christian warfare” training organization for young people, what one former associate called his “paranoid delusions” about law enforcement informants, and more. Here’s what we know:

Shea promoted a Christian military training group that prepared youth for war against “Muslim terrorists.”

According to emails obtained by both The Guardian and the Spokesman-Review in recent days, and in a Facebook video still up on Shea’s page, the Washington lawmaker promoted a group called “Team Rugged.”

In a July 2016 email, a man identified as Team Rugged’s leader, Patrick Caughran, told Shea that the group’s purpose was “to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men,” including learning “combatives, the use of a knife in defense, close quarters shooting with rifle and pistol and how to work effectively in teams of 2, 3 and 4.”

Caughran said training scenarios included ones in which young men would “fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country, Muslim terrorists.”

A year later, Shea posted a video on Facebook in which he interviewed two Team Rugged associates on Facebook. One described the group to the lawmaker as “a school of learning for young men to give them all the foundational learning and skills that they need to be effective in Christian warfare.” Shea gushed about a video he had seen showing their skills, saying it looked like an “acrobatic special forces team.”

The Guardian also reported that Shea “paid the founder of the group money from his campaign fund in 2018.”

Shea connected the group’s leader with a far-right broadcaster who advocated for violence.

Both The Guardian and the Spokesman-Review reported that, at Caughran’s request, Shea forwarded Caughran’s email to the far-right broadcaster Jack Robertson, known as “John Jacob Schmidt” among supporters in the anti-government movement.

In previously reported leaked chats with Shea, Robertson advocated violence against anti-fascist activists. “Fist full of hair, and face slam, to a Jersey barrier,” he wrote. The day that leak was published, Shea shared a link to Robertson’s podcast responding to the story.

In an email to Shea reported last week by the Spokesman-Review, Caughran wrote, “Thank you for forwarding this to John Jacob Schmidt. If he is able, I would really appreciate an email or call from him.” Per the Guardian, Shea forwarded it to Robertson with the note, “See below. From Marble meeting. JJS he wants to connect with you.”

In a broadcast Saturday in which he responded to the Guardian and Spokesman-Review’s recent reporting, Robertson called the articles “nothing more than a propaganda leftist hit piece against a very effective conservative Christian leader in the community” and said Team Rugged was merely training young people in firearms like thousands of other Christians have.

“The world has gone mad, and if you aren’t like them and you are not mad they will attack you and say you’re the one that’s crazy,” he said. “They almost make you feel like maybe you’re the one that’s crazy and you’re not.”

Shea supports establishing a territory for right-wing Christians in the Pacific Northwest.

Shea supports the establishment of a 51st state called “Liberty,” which would carve out the conservative-leaning eastern half of Washington. Robertson is a fellow traveler and broadcasts from “Radio Free Redoubt” — “Redoubt” being, as he described earlier this year, “the strategic relocation, or the political migration movement, to the conservative inland Pacific Northwest states of Liberty, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.”

The Spokesman-Review described the territory in 2016 as a place where far-right believers hope “to settle and defend themselves when the whole country goes bad.” In a Spokesman-Review article published Sunday, a former Shea associate described a 2016 meeting among Shea and various allies in the area as planning for a “provisional government” in the event of future instability.

“They don’t want the United States,” the former associate, Jay Pounder, told the Spokesman-Review, characterizing Shea’s thinking. “They don’t want the whole country. They want their homeland, this region. They want their patriot stronghold in the Pacific Northwest — their Redoubt.”

Shea was concerned about government scrutiny.

Pounder once worked in Shea’s informal security detail, the Spokesman-Review reported Sunday, but has since regretted the association. He described a list Shea maintained of associates he believed to be government informants — “mostly paranoid delusions” — and said Shea outfitted him with electronic tools including a “bug sniffer” and a “cellphone hammer that plugs into a cigarette lighter.” Pounder also said Shea instructed him to buy GPS trackers on eBay.

Per the report, Shea also dug up a list of what he said was “all law enforcement in Washington,” so that allies could confirm whether FBI agents or other potential government investigators were legitimate.

“He was a paranoid dude,” Pounder told the Spokesman-Review, saying he too once “bought into this crap.”

“He was always scared that the government was listening,” Pounder added. “He was always scared that if a black van pulled up, the doors would fly open and they’d scoop him away. And he always said that he would not go down without a fight.”

A lot of groups want Shea to be expelled from the legislature.

In a comment responding to the new reporting Saturday, the Spokane chapter of the NAACP became the latest group to call for Shea’s expulsion from the state legislature. “Every moment he occupies a seat in our state Legislature emboldens extremists and erodes the legitimacy of our sacred institutions,” the chapter said. “Anything short of the expulsion of Matt Shea from the Washington state House of Representatives is a threat to our community, a threat to our collective safety and an implicit endorsement of white supremacy.”

The group adds its voice to a growing list of calls for Shea’s expulsion. In April, the Washington State Democratic Party called on the state GOP to “oust Shea” after the revelations about his chats with Robertson. Those leaked chats also included another Shea associate, Anthony Bosworth, fantasizing about violence against anti-fascists.

Shea, as with The Guardian and The Spokesman-Review, did not return TPM’s request for comment Monday.

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